Wrongful termination in California goes beyond a firing that some think was unjustified. As our Los Angeles wrongful termination attorneys can explain, it refers to an employment agreement that’s ended by the employer in violation of the worker’s legal rights. It means that the reason for one’s firing was because of discriminatory reasons, in violation of the employment contract or in retaliation for the employee exercising his or her legal rights.
It’s important to point out that California is an at-will state, so companies can fire employees for any time without cause, reason or advance notice. In order for one’s firing to be considered wrongful termination, former employees need to show it was due to reasons expressly prohibited by state or federal law.
The laws most commonly cited in wrongful termination cases include:
- Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964
- California Fair Employment and Housing Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Equal Pay Act
- Americans With Disabilities Act
- California Family Rights Act
- Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Family Act
There are protections outlined for workers in certain classes at both the state and federal level, as well as prohibitions against harassment and retaliation. Workers who have been wrongfully terminated are entitled to lost wages and benefits, back pay and wages, compensation for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and/or punitive damages (intended to penalize the employer for egregious misconduct).
California has some of the strongest protections for workers, but it’s important to discuss your rights with an experienced wrongful termination attorney before deciding your next move.
There are dozens of legal bases for wrongful termination, but among the most common:
- Breach of contract. Employee contracts can outline specifications for termination under certain circumstances or after a set time period. If an employer violates the terms of that contract, they can be sued for wrongful termination.
- Retaliation. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employer for doing something that is legally protected. Examples would be reporting cases of workplace sexual harassment. It could also be whistleblowing, complaining of or opposing harassment or discrimination. Retaliation accounts for nearly half of all workplace discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Breach of good faith and fair dealing. This can sometimes be what an employee refers to when they say they were “forced to quit.” The employer may not outright fire a person, but they’ll make your work life difficult for you in an attempt to encourage you to quit. They might give you an unfavorable transfer or move you to a worse shift. Breach of good faith and fair dealing can also be a company that cooks up a reason to fire you that’s pretextual when the actual reason is illegal.
- Violation of civil rights. If you are fired because of your gender, disability, age, religion, race sexual orientation, gender identity or pregnancy, you probably have a case for wrongful termination. It’s important to document everything because your employment attorney will need to prove that you were fired for discriminatory reasons, rather than legitimate ones.
You generally have between two and three years to file such a claim (depending on the type of claim it is), but it’s important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible as there may be tighter deadlines under certain circumstances.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
How to file a retaliation/discrimination complaint, California Department of Industrial Relations